European Championships

The second day of play in Malmö saw the favorites facing increased pressure


After a comparatively quiet opening day at the 2023 STUPA European Table Tennis Championships in Malmö, the second day of play brought more suspense. The favorites faced challenges, and the atmosphere is already heating up.

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Slovenia – Denmark 1-3

Led by the number one player in Europe, Darko JORGIC, Slovenia faced a setback and lost to Denmark. The leading team in Group F, currently ranked at position no. 11 in the World Rankings, lost 1-3 against team no. 21.

Denmark even had a chance to win 3-0, but Darko JORGIC managed to win the close opening encounter against Anders LIND by the narrowest margins. Jonathan GROTH overcame Denoi KOZUL in an equally dramatic style, overcoming a 1-2 deficit. Tobias RASMUSSEN won in straight games against Peter HRIBAR before GROTH sealed the victory with a 3-0 win over JORGIC.

“At the start, the match between Anders and Darko was the one we usually see. He always plays close matches against JORGIC. Unfortunately, he lost 9-11 in the decisive game. I started well against KOZUL, but after the first game, I started to play less aggressively, maybe a little bit slow, and he is too good a player to allow such an approach. He seized the opportunity. I found my rhythm in the fourth game, started to play aggressively again. I found my legs which “gone” in the second and third games. It was important to carry on that wave against Jorgic in the second match. He is very good against left-handers, and it is not good for me. It allows him to play with his backhand in full power. I took control and had an advantage in each game. He put much variation into his game but I was ready each time. It was a good team match, and we had good support from the bench. I think that was our big advantage compared to Slovenia's bench. It gave us extra power.”

Tomorrow, Denmark will play against Türkiye.


Czechia – Sweden 1-3

Lubomir JANCARIK's brave effort in the match against Mattias FALCK was awarded with the Czechia's lead, but the team failed to preserve the advantage. Sweden secured the secoind win intheir group and progressed to the Round of 16 as a top ranked team. Truls MOREGAARD recorded two wins. He beat Pavel SIRUCEK and Lubomir JANCARIK, whilst Kristian KARLSSON scored against Tomas POLANSKY.

Jörgen PERSSON said: “Czechia put us in a difficult situation several times. We were down 1-0. Additionally, Tomas POLANSKY had a 2-1 lead in games against Kristian KARLSSON. It would have been much nicer to have a 2-1 lead before the last two games. In the fourth game, Truls lost in the first game. It was important to handle the situation well.”

Truls MÖREGÅRDH added: “I've had a tough time against Lubomir JANCARIK in the past, having only beaten him once before. I played too predictably, which he likes. I became too aggressive with my receives.I started to vary my serves and introduced some new ones.He doesn't like it when you introduce new and unfamiliar elements or disrupt his rhythm. I especially waited for his serve so I could place the ball, which didn't suit him.Now that we've won the group, we're aiming for gold.”

Germany – Poland 3-1

Despite a singles defeat by Timo BOLL, Germany's men advanced to the Round of 16 as winners of Group A. In their second and final group match, the team defeated the young Polish team 3:1.

In the opening singles match, the 16th-ranked European player, Benedikt DUDA, defeated last year's U21 European Champion, Samuel KULCZYCKI, in five games. Following that, Timo BOLL suffered defeat by the hands of 17-year-old U21 champion Milosz REDZIMSKI in four games. REDZIMSKI had already beaten him in the Champions League group stage last year.

Ricardo WALTHER, with an outstanding performance, once again put Germany in the lead against former European bronze medalist Jakub DYJAS.

"I was naturally tense because, at 1:1, it was a pivotal match. I focused solely on myself and wanted to put the team in the lead at 2:1," said the German Singles Champion of 2020. "I have played against DYJAS several times and had a good start against him today. Towards the end, he played more aggressively and made it tougher for me. I'm glad I was able to win the set and give Timo a bit of momentum."

Boll, the record European champion, used that momentum to defeat KULCZYCKI in his second appearance on Tuesday, overcoming the 21-year age difference to secure a 3:1 victory.


Portugal – Serbia 3-2

SHAO Jieni recorded two wins tonight to confirm Portugal's status and position in the Round of 16. SHAO beat Izabela LUPULESKU and Sabina SURJAN. Sabina managed to overcome YU Fu, but Yu was too strong for Izabela. In the “middle,” Aneta MAKSUTI overcame Matilde PINTO.

"SABINA beat me in Munich at the European Championships. Her game is very difficult for me, and she proved it once again. Before the match against LUPULESKU, I was a little bit tired, but I had to maintain the focus. I fought hard until the last point,” said YU.


Ukraine – Hungary 2-3

In another full-distance thriller, Hungary recorded its second victory in the group. After beating Belgium, they defeated Ukraine. Margaryta PESOTSKA gave Ukraine a better start with a victory over Georgina POTA, before Dora MADARASZ leveled the score by defeating Solomiya BRATEYKO. In a five-game match, Ganna GAPONOVA lost to Bernadett BALINT just before the pendulum swung again. Margaryta PESOTSKA justified her status once again and overcame MADARASZ. In the decisive match, POTA overcame BRATEYKO.

“PESOTSKA took the lead in the opening match, but I could have won the second. I had it at 10-7, and then I lost. If it had been 1-1, it would have been a completely different scenario. A big 0-2 deficit was hard to catch when you play against PESOTSKA. She returns the ball to the table something like a million times. Dora played outstandingly against BRATEYKO, and then I think BALINT brought us the key point. Her victory over Ganna allowed us to win this match,” explained POTA.

The decisive game put extra pressure on POTA.

“I heard from the girls that BRATEYKO had been playing fantastically in the past few weeks. That forced me to change my tactics. Or to explain it better, I was forced not to play my usual game. Against left-handed players, I always play the service on the backhand and engage in backhand-to-backhand rallies. However, I couldn't do that this time. I had to play to her forehand. In order to do so, I needed to be focused and not play my usual game, only follow the tactics,” said POTA.


Sweden – Spain 3-2

After a hard-fought battle that lasted the full five matches, Sweden secured the top position in Group H by defeating Spain. Linda BERGSTROM gave Sweden a dream start with a victory over Sofia-Xuan ZHANG, but she couldn't stop Maria XIAO, who also recorded a win against Christina KALLBERG.

However, Christina managed to win the decisive game of the decisive match against Sofia, securing the victory for Sweden. Filippa BERGAND added another point to the scoreboard with her win over Jana RIERA.

Linda BERGSTROM spoke about her two matches: “Now looking back at all the matches, it was very important for everybody in the team if I could manage to win two points, but maybe mostly for me because I am very disappointed with my own game today. However, at the same time, I am very proud of my teammates.”

Against XIAO in the fourth match, Linda started very strong. “I did well in the first, but then she changed tactics, and it sort of threw me off a bit. Much of my play was dependent on my mindset in both matches, and it affected my game, I think. I had a bit of a problem finding my own game and let my opponent lead. So, in short, it was a struggle today.”

XIAO pushed on strong and had a timeout and finished the game. What did you do to try to change the match? “I tried to control her play to better suit my own, but this had no effect. Then a bit stressed over the long shots. And that sums it up.”

Speaking of Filippa BERGAND against Jana Riera. Can you give us any comments? “Simply perfect. Filippa did it just as well today as yesterday, and it feels so rewarding to see that her play is really paying off. Stina did it so well; she was mentally especially strong in the last game, very impressive. She did not hesitate to go in and take the game.”

Filippa BERGAND said: “It was somewhat a similar match as yesterday, but it felt so much better to play today, and I think it’s because she replied better than my opponent yesterday. I think I did the match well, and it feels very good. After Linda's victory, I felt very decisive and good. Coming in at 0-2 is tough, but at 1-1, I definitely had a good chance. There was not much else but winning in my mindset.”

Stina KÄLLBERG reflected on her performance in the match against Maria: “It was fairly even, but I was a bit uncomfortable, and she had a better game. We have met in the past as well. The team effort makes us very strong, and we have great confidence in each other’s.”


Slovenia – Romania 0-3

In superb style, Romania beat Slovenia to reach the Round of 16 as the top-ranked team in the group. Elizabeta SAMARA opened the duel with a win over Ana TOPFANT, and Bernadette SZOCS and Andreea DRAGOMAN followed suit with wins over Katarina STRAZAR and Sara TOKIC.

"Yesterday against Croatia's Hana ARAPOVIC, I played a very good match, which helped me boost my confidence and feel the venue. Hana is a very good player, young but difficult to beat. We played last time against each other in 2021, and I remember that as a very tough match. For sure, yesterday's win prepared me for today's challenge. I felt much better today, played better, and I am happy that we are in the Round of 16 now,” said Elizabeta SAMARA.

Bernadette SZOCS was pleased with her win over STRAZAR.

“I am more satisfied with the team's win. We did it with 3-0, and it is a good way to seal this part. From Thursday, it will be much harder, and the real battle begins in two days,” said SZOCS.

Andreea DRAGOMAN was listed as a member of the senior team for the first time at the big championships.

“I played in the qualifications, and I also was a member of the team at the European Games, but I played only as a substitute after Elizabeta got injured. So I am happy that I won on my premiere as a standard member of the Romania's team,” said Andreea. “Despite that, I did not feel under pressure. We were completely in control in our two matches in Malmo.”


Germany – Austria 3-0

Defending champions, team Germany with Nina MITTELHAM, HAN Ying and Sabine WINTER overcame Austria to secure their place in the knock out stage. Anastasia STERNER, Amelie SOLJA and Karoline MISCHEK failed to post individual victory today.

HAN Ying said: “"I am satisfied with the result in my singles match. Amelie is a very special player and especially uncomfortable for me. I haven't played against her in a long time, and I'm glad I won today."

Coach and former Croatian world-class player Tamara BOROS explained: "Once it was clear that both England and Austria would be competing without their top players, HO and POLCANOVA, I wanted to give all five players the chance to get used to the conditions in the main hall so that they are prepared for the main round and get a good feeling for it. Yesterday was a very good match. Today, Nina had some trouble, but she found a good way in the end. It wasn't an easy match for Ying against Solja's playing style. Now we have two days for training and to prepare for the second part of the tournament. It's important that everyone stays fit and healthy."

Photo: Rémy Gros

Ukraine – France 1-3

France advanced to the next satge with their second win in the group against Ukraine. Alexis LEBRUN recorded two wins over Viktor YEFIMOV and Anton LIMONOV, while Felix LEBRUN prevailed against YEFIMOV. Yevhen PRYSHCHEPA beat Can AKKUZU.

“I am happy I contributed with the two wins in today's victory. Ukraine's players are very experienced, and it was not an easy match for us. We had to be very focused and fast. We had to take their spin, and the key was in our fast game. We have to dictate our rhythm,” said Alexis.


Romania - England 2-3

The last team to leave the venue in the morning session was England. They prevailed against Romania after a fierce battle and arrears of two matches to null. Ovidiu IONESCU and Eduard IONESCU demonstrated powerful play against Paul DRINKHALL and Liam PITCHFORD before Tom JARVIS put England on the winning track in the duel against Iulian CHIRITA. Furthermore, Liam faced match point in the duel against Ovidiu before he won. Paul overcame Eduard in a less dramatic style.

“Being two null down against Romania was not the greatest start for sure. We all fought hard, but Tom was the one to start the ball rolling to get back to it,” said Liam. “Today was tough for me; I did not play yesterday because on Saturday I had a little bit of an injury. I did not start at 100 percent, but I did my best for the team. I did not feel great in the first match, but in the second, I started to get into it. I fought like I could. We showed who we are today to come back from two null down and match point down; to show the spirit. We came back from something we should probably have lost in the recent past. But it is coming back, and we are having team spirit. We are happy that everyone got a win and contributed.”

Paul said: ”I lost against Eduard at the European games, so it was a very nice win. today However, despite 0-2 at the start, I could not say that we did not do much wrong. They played two very good matches, but this game is who gets first to three..."

Croatia – Austria 3-1

The clash between two teams that know each other very well ended in favor of Croatia. Austria had a better start with Robert GARDOS' win over Tomislav PUCAR, but Andrej GACINA leveled the score by defeating Daniel HABESOHN. Frane KOJIC extended the lead with a victory over Andreas LEVENKO, and in the fourth duel, PUCAR sealed the match with a win over HABESOHN.

“We know each other very well, and we knew how difficult it could be. We prepared tactically very well for Austria, and we all managed to bring out the best in our game. We are satisfied with the outcome and especially with the possibility to have a two-day break to recover well and prepare for the knockout stage,” stated Andrej GACINA.

In their two recent clashes, Croatia and Austria each won once, with Austria having more success in the previous encounter. However, Croatia was without GACINA and PUCAR during that time.

“Those records are history. It is only important what is happening now. This result counts.”

Slovakia – Czechia 1-3

Slovakia had a better start with Tatiana KUKULKOVA's 3-2 win over Katerina TOMANOVSKA, but Czechia entered the Championships victoriously. They accounted for Slovakia in the match where Hana MATELOVA recorded two wins. Hana overcame Barbora BALAZOVA and Tatiana KUKULKOVA, whilst Zdena BLASKOVA scored against Ema LABOSOVA.

Renáta ŠTRBÍKOVÁ, coach of the Czechia women's team: "It was an extremely emotionally demanding duel, which we managed better and I am very happy about it. I counted on the fact that Ema LABOŠOVÁ, whom Zdena BLAŠKOVÁ beat in the extra league, would play in the top three. And I'm glad that I hit the lineup exactly. I didn't play it for two certain points Hana MATELOVÁ because I believed that Kateřina TOMANOVSKÁ could also win against Tatiana KUKULKOVÁ. She played an absolutely balanced match with her, she had a match point, so there is nothing to add to that. But Hanka MATELOVA gave the team enormous confidence, so I have to praise all the players for their performance."

Hana MATELOVÁ: "I was a little surprised for me by the line-up chosen by Slovakia's coach. At 0:1, I knew I had to win because otherwise our hopes would drop a lot. It wasn't an easy match against Barbora BALÁŽOVÁ, but mentally and tactically I was better," she said about the first match and commented on the second with the words: "Here, the opponent was already under pressure, because we were leading 2:1. I've never played with her and we don't train much together. He has a specific and quite, I would say disgusting, game. I am happy that I managed the fifth set. A 2:1 and 7:2 lead, if I lost that, I would be very sorry."

Portugal – Hungary 3-1

With two wins against Hungary, Marcos FREITAS led Portugal to the knockout stage. Marcos overcame Adam SZUDI and Bence MAJOROS. Bence also suffered at the hands of Tiago APOLONIA, while Tamas LAKATOS overcame Joao MONTEIRO.

“Hungary is a good team, and like all of us, they were very motivated, so we were aware of the task that lay ahead of us. However, our win over Greece yesterday boosted our confidence,” said Marcos. “Even though I was down 0-2 against Adam, I believed I could come back if I reduced my mistakes. That's exactly what I did. I played better, safer, put the balls on the table, and managed to change the course of the match.”

FREITAS gave an overview of all the matches.

“Tiago won very confidently against MAJOROS, and with a 2-0 lead, we were in a very good position. The MONTEIRO's defeat could not take us off track. Against MAJOROS, I knew I had to fight hard. He's a very good player, and actually, I lost to him in the French league the last time we met.”

Now Portugal has two days to prepare for the next stage.

“Usually, we do not have that much time, but this time we will make the best of it. I am suffering from a minor neck injury, and I will use the break to recover. It is good for me because normally it takes a few days to recover.”



Slovakia – Belgium 2-3

A closely contested encounter that went to the full five matches ended in favor of Belgium. WANG Yang beat both Adrien RASSENFOSSE and Cédric NUYTINCK, but Belgium's team effort prevailed. NUYTINCK scored against Lubomir PISTEJ, who also lost to RASSENFOSSE. Martin ALLEGRO beat Jakub ZELINKA.

“We expected it to be a not-so-easy match for us, and I think we had maybe chances to finish it a bit earlier if maybe I could have managed to win the first match against YANG, which I was leading. It was my first time playing against this chopper in maybe 3-4 years, so I played a great match, and overall the team knew we needed to make the most of the points against the number two and three, and we did it. It was a really good fight from everyone,” said Adrien RASSENFOSSE.

He continued: “It feels good to win a match, but especially now it was to bring the win to the team, so it was even better. Now we have won both our matches, so we are going to play in the main draw, and we are looking to go as far as possible.”


Luxembourg – Poland 3-1

Luxembourg also secured a spot in the Round of 16 after wins over Wales and today, against Poland. Unlike yesterday, in their second match, they were forced to go the full distance. NI Xia Lian beat both Natalia BAJOR and Zuzanna WIELGOS. Katarzyna WEGRZYN prevailed against Tessy GONDERINGER. Sarah DE NUTTE overcame WIELGOS and lost to Natalia BAJOR.

“Team effort is what was most important today - everybody gave their best so we are happy with each of us. It was not an easy match; we won 3-2 so it was really to the end. Every match was important, and finally, we're happy to be first in the group,” said Sarah DE NUTTE.


France – Italy 3-1

In the dramatic duel in which players from both sides managed to come back from the verge of defeat twice, France prevailed to secure their place in the Round of 16. Italy and Türkiye will decide in a direct clash which team will join France.

In the opening match, YUAN Jia Nan had a safe 2-0 lead before Nikoleta STEFANOVA recovered to win the match. In the next one, the drama continued with Giorgia PICCOLIN establishing a 2-1 lead before she lost in an edgy decisive game finish. Prithika PAVADE won the last two games, both 11-9, each. In the match of Audrey ZARIF, everything went straightforward against Debora VIVARELLI before YUAN sealed the duel with a win over VIVARELLI.

Speaking of the opening match between YUAN Jia Nan and Nikoleta STEFANOVA, ZARIF explained: "Stefanova is really a very good player, and here she is in good shape. Her service game was exceptionally well today. On the other side, YUAN struggled with the adaptation to the venue."

Pressure was high, and it affected PAVADE's game. She was in arrears against PICCOLIN.

“Last year I practiced a lot with Georgia, and I knew what to expect. There were a few key moments in our duel today. Most important was the second game. She had a game point against me. I managed to save it, and then the last game was amazing. Our level of play was fantastic, and only a few details made a change. It was very close, and now I am happy that I won, but I have to improve a few things in the future."

ZARIF prevented any drama with a 3-0 win over VIVARELLI.

“It was not easy after 1-1, but my receive game worked very well,” said ZARIF.